I just bought myself some special software that allows me to take my old VCR tapes and run them through my computer, turning them into digital files that I can then edit and post on this blog. It’s a good thing I found it when I did since it was in the “clearance section” of my local electronics superstore. Apparently, the tools required to transform the dying technology of videotape into the digital age is itself a dying technology as well.
The first old tape I “recycled” in this fashion went up on Friday – this short Mr. Met video – and there will be more to come in the days and weeks ahead, including more mascot tomfoolery and portions of my Remote Control episode. However, the process takes some time, so please bear with me as I put a few stories “already in progress” on hold for a bit. I’ll get back to them with some terrific video accompaniment.
In the meantime, I thought I’d share a baseball story with you. Now this one does not come out of personal experience – it was related to me many years ago by Dan Hoard, a former Syracuse sportscaster who has more recently called games for Triple-A Pawtucket and the University of Cincinnati… and it involves Jeff Stone.
Who was Jeff Stone? He was an outfielder who came up through the Phillies organization and finished seventh in Rookie of the Year voting in 1984 playing 51 games with a .362 batting average. Hopes for the future were high, and yet, he never really did anything of note baseball-wise from that point on, eventually bouncing around from organization to organization until he ultimately left the game for good in 1992.
Jeff Stone, circa 1986
However what made Stone memorable was not his efforts on the field, but rather the things he did and said off the field. Stone was a modern-day Yogi Berra in terms of some of the puzzling things that sprung from his lips. For example, when a waiter once asked him if he wanted a shrimp cocktail, legend has it that Stone responded, “No thanks. I don't drink.”
Another story has Stone leaving behind a television set he had purchased for his room in the Puerto Rican winter leagues. When asked why he didn’t bring the expensive TV back home with him, he answered, “It only gets Spanish stations.”
That brings us to one of our favorite all-time baseball stories: Jeff Stone, Dumbest Man Alive.
Stone was down in Triple-A and his team was playing a three-game series in Syracuse. The night before the start of the first game of the series, Stone went to his manager and asked for permission to arrive at the ballpark a little late. Why? Well, he hadn’t seen his wife for quite some time, and she was flying in to see him for a few days.
Normally players arrive at the ballpark a few hours early to attend team meetings, take batting practice, get treated by team trainers or whatever else it is they need to do to get ready to play. The manager asked him when her flight was due to arrive and Stone told him 3 PM.
Permission was granted. After all, the trip from Hancock Airport to MacArthur Stadium takes about 10 minutes. No big deal. Even if the flight has a lengthy delay, there should be no problem for Stone to return to the stadium with plenty of time to spare for a 7:30 PM start.
5:30 PM – No Stone at the ballpark. This was the age before everybody had a cellphone, so there was no quick way to contact him. But, with two whole hours before the game, the manager had no real worries yet.
7:00 PM – Still no Stone. Now there’s a problem. Starting lineups are due, and Stone was scheduled to play. The manager starts to get worried and sends an intern out to the airport to look for Stone as he inserts somebody else’s name into the centerfield slot.
8:00 PM – The intern returns. He couldn’t find Stone anywhere, and since the manager had forgotten to ask Stone where his wife was coming from, there was no easy way to pin down where in the airport he might be, or if the flight had indeed arrived safely.
9:30 PM – Stone enters the dugout, fully-dressed, and sits on the bench without a word. The manager sees him and rushes over…
“Where the hell have you been?”
Stone looks lost. He doesn’t understand why he’s being yelled at...
“Picking my wife up at the airport. You gave me permission.”
“For a 3 PM flight. Did something go wrong? When did her flight land?”
Hearing that the flight was on time, the manager loses his mind…
“That was close to seven hours ago. What have you been doing for seven hours?”
“I told you – the airport.”
“Hancock is only 10 minutes away. What the %#% took you so long?”
“Not Hancock… LaGuardia.”
Folks, I give you, Jeff Stone.